Janet Baker, HANDEL: Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar) (Sung in English)

James Jolly

By James Jolly

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Opera for the rest of us: Julius Caesar translated into English.

Opera in English, a fine enterprise supported by the philanthropist and opera-lover Sir Peter Moores, forms a very important cornerstone of the Chandos catalogue. It's opera offered to English-speaking listeners in a way that makes its appeal direct and immediate. This classic recording of Handel's Julius Caesar, a memento of one of Dame Janet Baker's greatest theatrical triumphs, was originally made by EMI, but takes its place among other English-language performances in the Chandos catalogue. With Sir Charles Mackerras giving idiomatic and wonderfully dramatic support in the pit, Handel's greatest opera — vivid, full of psychological insight and still totally relevant — is heard to amazing effect. Baker's Caesar is a creation of impregnable firmness and authority yet when Cleopatra, gloriously and sweetly sung by Valerie Masterson, prises open a chink in his emotional armour, the change is stunningly conveyed. James Bowman is a fine Ptolemy, Sarah Walker a noble Cornelia and Della Jones a lively Sesto. The translation is straightforward and beautifully enunciated by all the singers. A classic recording.